Food & Drink

Flavored vodkas begin to move toward natural fruit as sweeteners

Distillers of flavored spirits, such as Oregon’s Wild Root, are employing the use of all-natural fruit, rather than artificial sweeteners, for flavors that are more subtle and balanced.
Distillers of flavored spirits, such as Oregon’s Wild Root, are employing the use of all-natural fruit, rather than artificial sweeteners, for flavors that are more subtle and balanced.

If you are a regular reader of this column, you might have wondered why there are very few recipes featuring vodka. There is a very good reason for that.

I don’t like it.

Drinking vodka is like drinking water that makes your head hurt in the morning. It is essentially tasteless, which is why whiskey, gin and tequila drinkers aren’t typically fans. However, for that very same reason, both younger drinkers and lazy bartenders love it because you can easily mask the alcohol. Bartenders can make something that tastes good for people who really don’t like the taste of alcohol in general. And that’s probably why it is America’s favorite spirit.

Vodka’s insipid nature might be why there are currently so many flavored vodkas on the market. Most of these are artificially sweetened, and I suspect that liquor companies are well aware that the palates of younger drinkers sway toward the sweet side. This is why we have rather ridiculous artificially-flavored liquors such as whipped cream, cinnamon, coconut and yes, even cupcake (ugh).

At Capitol Bar, I prefer to not serve artificially-flavored anything. But there are some good naturally flavored liquors like Don Q rums and Wild Root, my current favorite flavored vodka line.

Wild Root procures its fruit from the rich soils of Oregon’s Willamette Valley, and uses over a pound of fruit in each bottle. The flavor is subtle and only slightly sweet, which makes it very easy to create a balanced cocktail without much effort at all.

The following cocktail is a Capitol Bar original and pairs Wild Root’s Northwest red Raspberry-infused vodka with Pimm’s No. 1, a slightly bitter British liqueur with a gin base, as well as lemon cordial, which is made from combining spent lemons and sugar, and left to macerate in the refrigerator for three days. The result is a magic cordial that is sweet, bitter and sour all at the same time.

Kevin Hopper doesn’t hate vodka; he just seems to feel better with a gin martini in hand. Join him at Capitol Bar on State Street over a Wild No. 1 to discuss.

Wild No.1

1 1/2 ounces Pimms No.1

1 ounce Wild Root Raspberry Vodka

1/2 ounce lemon cordial

1/2 ounce simple syrup

Mint garnish

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously for 30 seconds. Strain into a serve martini or coupe glass. Garnish with bruised mint leaf. To bruise, simply place the mint leaf into one hand, and slap your hands together. This releases the fragrant mint aroma.

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